Today I went shopping for clothes I don’t need for a “divorce” cruise I’m heading off on this Friday. It’s not actually a divorce cruise but the timing of the end of my marriage just happened to coincide with a trip my friend and her husband were going on and I was talked into it in a weak moment. I am looking forward to it, but there are probably other destinations I would have chosen. Regardless, I am going and I’m going to have an amazing time with my friend, her hubby and his brother, whom I’m good mates with.
But I digress. I was shopping and since I’ve become an aunt, I’ve become obsessed with buying these tiny, perfect people clothes – cute little onesies and bubbysuits, covered in assorted mythical and extinct creatures like unicorns and dinosaurs. In the infants section, I found myself staring longingly at the most delicious clothes, clothes that fit those teeny portions of humanity I’m blessed to have as my niece and nephew.
I had picked out a few items and was holding them up, trying to imagine my seven-week-old niece in this disco diva-style suit, her feathery dark hair sticking out at all angles, when I had a moment. A moment when I knew: I wanted a baby.
Now, anyone who knows me or who has been following my stories knows this is not new. I’ve wanted a child since even before my ex-husband, when I was seeing a man with a two-year-old son. It was the first time I understood what it was to be unconditionally loved.
Since my infertility diagnosis, I’ve done very little except try to come to terms with the notion I will never be a mum. Moving away from my ex and home certainly helped me in that process but there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about it. That I don’t wish on eyelashes and shooting stars that things were different.
But with time, combined with living somewhere new and experiencing new things, I have gradually let go to the point where I felt I had accepted that I won’t ever be a mother. I had made a tentative peace with it and was pursuing dates with men confident that I could be happy without having my own children. I dated men with children and men who didn’t want children, thinking that either way my infertility wouldn’t be the deal breaker that ended things. But relationships can end for lots of reasons that have nothing to do with children and so it has been for me.
And then, it came back. This longing, this burning need and desire to be a mum. It was my birthday two weeks ago and I spent it with my two close friends. It was a horrible shit day for reasons that aren’t mine to share, but it was a day of many tears, some laughs and plenty of drinks. There was no place I would have rather been. And in between the conversation about the life-changing issue at hand, the topic of donating eggs came up. It had always been my friend’s wish to give this precious gift to a woman or couple. My other friend, herself having been through the shitstorm that is IVF, revealed she still had a couple of embryos on ice.
These strong, beautiful women love me and so very generously offered me eggs and embryos which I of course declined as being impossible. I’m single. I wouldn’t even know who to ask to be the sperm donor. I’m currently not working and have no real prospects I’m interested in pursuing. I don’t have a five-week plan let alone a five-year one.
And yet, since that conversation I have thought of little else. It’s a constant in the back of mind, like when you know you have a deadline looming, and it lurks in your brain springing up whenever you try to do something else. Can I? Should I?
I discussed it with a male friend and sometimes fuck buddy. Perhaps not the best person for this conversation but I needed to talk to someone. His view was that I didn’t need to make a rash decision and that I still had plenty of time to meet someone. Then, if that was what we both wanted, I could pursue my options. The problem I have with this line of logic is that it’s my belief that men won’t ever knowingly choose me if they know about my infertility.
Which brings me to my ongoing dating dilemma: when do I disclose to a new man that having children with me would involve an emotional and financial investment that could potentially end our relationship? It’s not exactly the friendly banter you make over first date appetisers. But, you don’t want to leave it too long that you’re both in so deep that it will end up hurting one or both of you if it ends.
Until now, I have opted for complete disclosure, usually on the first date. It’s not intentional, but it usually arises because it’s such a significant part of my history that it’s difficult to conceal. But I wonder how many men chose not to see me again because of this, after they fucked me of course. There are millions of women out there who can get pregnant the good old-fashioned way and then there’s me.
Men are simple beings and if there’s a hard, winding goat track up a steep incline that leads to a sterile office, some ancient and well-thumbed porn magazines and a cup, and a paved, flat road that leads to a warm, wet vagina who wouldn’t choose the vagina?
I’ve been chatting with a new man off Tinder for a few days now and while we haven’t met yet, the banter is solid. It seems we have a lot in common, from the sector we both work in, to our travel adventures and he’s from my hometown. But yesterday the texting turned to family and I mentioned that I was soon to be an aunt again and received this:
Do you like being an aunt or want your own at some stage?
What to do? My first impulse was to disclose my situation. My professional self said I only had to answer the question with a simple yes or no. If he was a journalist, I would never disclose more information than what had been asked, so why would I do it with a stranger?
I asked my housemate for a man’s perspective. His advice was to just say “yes” and that was enough. If the guy wanted to know more, he would ask. This housemate is also 27 and has no interest in having a family right now. His priorities are completely different to my own so I trod what I hoped was a middle path:
I love being an aunt. The two-year-old is also my godson. I’d love kids but it’s also something I know might not happen.
I thought this was OK and then he responded with this:
That’s really nice. I like that you love being an aunt as well as kids 😊
Now I’ve created a shit situation. I’ve been deliberately deceitful by withholding information and now this lovely man thinks that not only do I want kids, but that it could happen as easily as a smile emoji. At what point now do I reveal the truth? This is all supposing this is the man of my dreams and we do meet and go beyond a first date. Yep, sometimes my fantasies get the better of me.
So, I know what will happen now. I’ll sabotage it. I’ll pick a fight. I’ll tell him I’m not good enough and he can do better. Recognising that this is my pattern of behaviour rarely changes my approach. Help me readers – how and when do I tell men my situation without me completely fucking it up?